The Holly Bough is 125 years old!

“The Holly Bough will play a part in the merry-making of the season... and make the time pass quickly, pleasantly, and well.”

With that bold promise way back in 1897, the first ever edition of this venerable Christmas institution hit the streets. It’s fair to say it has become an intrinsic part of the Cork festive season ever since.Now the 2022 edition is out, with a beautiful cover by Cork artist and illustrator Sheena Dempsey.

I hope this 125th anniversary edition lives up to that first mission statement, and makes your time pass pleasantly and well.

We have produced yet another rattling good read - a veritable feast of great stories, remarkable photos, puzzles, and so much more. Read about the Rebel ancestry of Cork actor Cillian Murphy; a baker tells us the secret recipe for Donkey’s Gudge; and we recall the days when writer Brendan Behan and singer Jim Reeves visited Cork - with decidedly mixed results for both!

2022 Holly Bough Cover

Of course, we will be celebrating the Holly Bough’s 125th anniversary, with a look back at that first edition, and taking a deep dive into the story of its 125 years with an 8-page anniversary special.

All that, plus wonderful festive recipes, a segment for the kids, a bumper sports section - and of course the Diffney Quiz! Truly, we have something for everyone.

Christmas is a unique time, when we ponder the past, live in the present, and often cast an eye to the future too. Or, as the Holly Bough put it 125 years ago: “The past is over, and let it rest. The future is approaching, and let it come. For the present let us speak only of peace and rest.”

I wish you all peace and rest, and of course, pleasant reading for Christmas, 2022.

John Dolan Profile Picture

John Dolan

Editor of Holly Bough

'I never got to sled down Patrick’s Hill, I hear it’s a blast... and this street corner is special to me'

Sheena Dempsey and the Holly Bough 2022

John Dolan talks to Sheena Dempsey – the Cork artist behind the fabulous 2022 Holly Bough cover.

WHAT’S this? Has Cork been taken over by a colony of penguins? And is that a penguin Santa soaring through the Leeside sky being pulled by... polar bears?!

The wonderful, madcap, snowy scene on the cover of this year’s Holly Bough is the work of Cork artist and acclaimed illustrator of children’s books, Sheena Dempsey.

She conjured up a delightfully festive scene looking up Bridge Street in the city, and beyond to St Patrick’s Hill, while playful penguins throw snowballs, build snow-penguins, slide down on sleds, and sell the Holly Bough!
Sheena also gave a nod in her artwork to the fact this is a special year for the publication, as it marks its 125th anniversary.

She said: “Being asked to illustrate the Holly Bough cover was such an honour. My work often features penguins so I included them. I hope people feel enchanted when they see it!’”

Sheena said the scene has special resonance for her, as it has connections to her late father - who was the manager of the AIB bank on the corner - while she attended Scoil Mhuire up the hill. He used to bring her to school each morning and kiss her goodbye on this corner - often to her embarrassment!

“I thought to myself, imagine Cork were a magical winter wonderland covered with snow and populated by penguins making snow-penguins and having snowball fights. I’ve never personally had the opportunity to sled down St Patrick’s Hill on a ‘For Sale’ sign or a dustbin lid, but I hear it’s a blast so I added those in.”

Sheena was born in Tipperary, the youngest of three, and her family moved to Cork when she was six. She grew up in Rochestown. She is married to Mick Keigher, of Bishopstown, and they live in Folkestone, Kent.

“He was beside himself to hear I was asked to do the artwork for the Holly Bough and declared it the pinnacle of my career! It was a staple in his home growing up,” laughed Sheena.                  

Each year, a different Cork artist is asked to design the Holly Bough cover. 

Editor John Dolan said: “Sheena has come up with a stunning cover image for 2022. We have such a talented pool of artists in Cork and I’m delighted she took up the mantle in our 125th anniversary year.”

Crossword and Diffney Quiz winners

There were hundreds of entries from Holly Bough readers for this year's Diffney Quiz and crossword competitions

Mail containing all the entries

The winner of the 2022 Holly Bough crossword €250 prize was Tom Ryan

Press here to see the answers of the 2022 crossword


1. Angelfish
6. Kanturk
10. Inn
12. Ali
13. Haler
14. Urn
15. Cry
16. Drop a stitch
17. Indicate
20. Dodo
21. Pretends
22. Tissue
25. Feast
28. Rondo
30. Spread
31. Shopping bag
32. Mayor
33. Actor
35. All bells and whistles
37. Amazon
38. Oomph
41. Raise
45. Camera
46. Slalomed
47. Born
48. Ganymede
56. Ail
57. Kebab
58. Any
59. Ewe
60. Seafood
61. Scholarly


1. A Christmas Carol
2. Gold-dust
3. Lyric
4. Inuit
5. Hand
6. Kimono
8. Umpteen
9. Knitwear
10. Inchydoney
11. Nays
18. Awe
19. Edge
21. Pip
23. Unfair
24. Roaringwater Bay
26. Ash
27. Top gear
29. Ants
31. Sold
32. Mimosa
34. Timoleague
36. Lei
39. Holidays
40. Red
42. Sing
43. December
44. Amphora
45. Can
47. Ballad
49. Allah
50. Yokel
51. Oboe
53. So-so
54. Says

The winner of the 2022 Holly Bough Diffney Quiz €500 prize was John Whelan, of Scartana, Cahir, Co Tipperary

Press here to see the answers of the 2022 Difnney quiz 

1. 100 Cent in a Euro
2. 1st and Foremost
3. As Easy As 1 2 3
4. On All 4’s
5. I Ain’t Worried by 1 Republic
6. the 7th Son of a 7th Son
7. 4 and 20 Blackbirds Baked in a Pie
8. Boeing 747, the Jumbo Jet
9. 2 is Company, 3 is a Crowd
10. 06/01/1839 Oíche na Gaoithe Móire
11. 60 Seconds in a Minute
12. 1 Swallow Never Made a Summer
13. 13 Lives
14. R-a-Dub-Dub 3 Men in a Tub
15. 4 Points for a Try in Rugby League
16. 10,766 Kilometres from Cork to Buenos Aires
17. 8 Tentacles of an Octopus
18. 21 Reasons by Nathan Dawe and Ella Henderson
19. the 10 Plagues of Egypt
20. Cork Penny Dinners,4 Little Hanover Street,Cork.
21. in 1492 Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue
22. There’s 1 Born Every Minute
23. Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs
24. 125 Years of the Holly Bough
25. Tús Maith 1/2 na hOibre 26. Aries, March 21st - April 20th
27. 20 Teams in La Liga
28. 3,000 Years of Longing
29. the Scrum-Haif is Number 9 in Rugby Union
30. 100 Snow White Horses by John Spillane
31. 13 Unlucky for Some
32. 24/02/2022 Russia Invaded Ukraine
33. Once Twice 3 Times a Lady
34. the Tropic Of Capricorn is 23.43634 Degrees South
35. 50 Points for a Bullseye in Darts
36. Married at 1st Sight
37. 25 Years is a 1/4 of a century
38. 17 Going Under by Sam Fender
39. 2022 European Rugby Champions Cup Final, La Rochelle 24 - 21 Leinster
40. 01/04 Lá na nAmadán
41. 14/08/2022 Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy Win Gold
42. 2,3,5,7,the 1st 4 Prime Numbers
43. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
44. Warehouse 13
45. the Great Wall of China is 21,196 Kilometres Long
46. 30 by Adele
47. 3 Under Par is an Albatross in Golf
48. 4 and 20 Fighting Men and a Couple of Stout Gossoons
49. Like 2 Peas in a Pod
50. All Ireland Minor Camogie Final,Cork 2-11,Galway 2-07
51. Galtymore is 917.9 Metres High
52. 06/01 Nollaig na mBan
53. Alpha the 1st Letter of the Greek Alphabet
54. Balthazar,Melchior and Caspar,the 3 Wise Men
55. Bus Route 206,South Mall to Grange
56. 2Step by Ed Sheeran
57. I’m Looking Over a 4 Leaf Clover
58. Scattered to the 4 Winds
59. 03/02/1959 the Day the Music Died
60. On the 4th of July,1806 We Set Sail from the Sweet Cove of Cork

Holly Bough Logo


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The Diffney Quiz has become a staple of the hugely popular annual Holly Bough - a devilishly addictive quiz where letters and numbers are given as clues, and you have to guess what they stand for. Holly Bough editor John Dolan talks to the quiz compiler Gerry Diffney about how it all began, the secrets of its success, and the pride he feels that it unites families at Christmas. And look out for a clue for one of this year's most puzzling Diffney Quiz questions!

Now you can access past editions of Holly Bough online

Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021

A treasure trove of Cork history lies within the pages of every Holly Bough - and now you can access past editions of Cork’s favourite Christmas publication at the touch of a button.

This year, the publication was digitised and is available to view online on the Irish Newspaper Archives (INA) website - Ireland’s largest digital newspaper archive, the website stores hundreds of thousands of pages of past newspapers, including the Echo and Examiner, and provides easy access to more than 300 years of history.

Holly Boughs dating back to 1924 up to the present day can now be viewed online.

Jonathan Martin, of the INA, said: “We are delighted to have the Holly Bough Christmas magazine on board our website. The Holly Bough has been a wonderful Christmas tradition in Cork city and county since 1897.

“The INA believes this title offers a great snap-shot of times gone past, illustrated beautifully in the photos and articles that capture Ireland at its traditionally happiest time of year.

“We hope that you enjoy reading the archive as much as we did digitising them.

“If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us at”

Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021

Here, you can view all the Holly Bough covers available on our archives, and from the archives of Cork City Library, from down the ages

So long to the silos of Cork docklands

The last working silo at Cork’s docklands is set to close, severing a link to the city’s industrial past as the landscape in that area continues to shift. We tell the story in the 2022 Holly Bough, and in this video, NOEL SWEENEY talks to the last two men standing.

Billy Healy (left) and Melven MacIlwraith have worked on the docklands silos since the 1980s

Billy Healy (left) and Melven MacIlwraith have worked on the docklands silos since the 1980s and are retiring when the last one closes. Billy said: “When I started, the lads there told me I was mad, that the place would only last a couple of years”

DAWN OF A NEW ERA: A view into Cork city from the last working silo at Cork docklands

DAWN OF A NEW ERA: A view into Cork city from the last working silo at Cork docklands. Picture: Noel Sweeney

Submit a photo or story

If you have a story to submit to the Holly Bough, or a photo for the Holly Bough Picture Gallery, you can do it here

Printing the Holly Bough at the Cork Examiner in December 1949

Printing the Holly Bough at the Cork Examiner in December 1949 ©The Echo Archive.

"Written by Cork people, for Cork people"

The Holly Bough has been an annual tradition in Cork since 1897.

In that time, it has become a staple of the Christmas season in city and county, and among the diaspora around the world.
It has appeared in all 125 years since it began, apart from a few years during the world wars, and in 1948, when there was a paper shortage. The oldest copy in Cork City Library is from 1924.

The Holly Bough contains a plethora of historical stories and photographs about Cork and its people, as well as festive articles, a food & drink section, a junior section including puzzles, fictional short stories and poems by local people, and a sports section. 

The magazine is now larger than it has ever been in its history – 164 pages.
Editors down the years have included Stephen Coughlan and Walter McGrath, and the current editor, John Dolan, has been at the helm since 2002.

He attributes its continued success to hard work by generations of people, from writers to in-house journalists, editors and photographers, from printers to distributors, advertisers to contributors. The latter are the backbone of the Holly Bough. “The Holly Bough is written by Cork people, for Cork people” he says.

Grand Parade 1930 Christmas

Christmas decorations on Grand Parade. In centre is Berwick Fountain, which was designed by Sir John Benson and paid for by Judge Berwick 15/12/1930 ©The Echo Archive.


Thousand readers wordwide 


Years the Holly Bough is a Cork tradition


Pages bursting with photos and stories


Christmas publication in Cork

Contact the Holly Bough

on email at: 

 or by post at : Holly Bough, The Echo, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork

Holly Bough Cover 2022

Holly Bough 2022

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